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the Paellas Valencia Spain

The paella

from Valencia, Spain

Paella is both typically Spanish and world famous. The dish comes from Sueca, a town near Valencia on the east coast of Spain. The original recipe was so popular that other regions began making their variants, with their own local ingredients. Spanish cuisine now features several paellas, all of which are worth tasting.

The Spanish rice fields of Albufera

The Spanish rice fields of Albufera

The wetlands south of Valencia are called Albufera. There the boggy ground grows a nice type of rice that forms the basis of paella. At first, only chicken, duck, rabbit, and snails were added to the dish. But once many cooks had discovered the original recipe, they began making variations with fish, meat, and shellfish and created paella mixta. In the twentieth century, the fame of paella spread onto the international level and today paella is enjoyed all over the world.

What does paella mean?

There are many explanations for the word. A common one begins with the pan in which the dish is prepared. Patella is the old Latin name for a shallow pan. Linguists see this as the link with the Catalan-Valencian word paella, meaning pan. Over the years the word was paella became synonymous in the rest of Spain for arroz Valenciano (or arroz a la Valencia, meaning ‘rice from Valienca’), which included the name of the dish. Hence the later name, paella et arroz or arroz a la paella.

Paella de mariscos (with shellfish and fish)

Paella de mariscos (with shellfish and fish)

Paella mixta (with chicken and seafood)

Paella mixta (with chicken and seafood)

There is beautiful folklore about paella. According to an old Spanish rural tradition, once a year the men cooked for the women. They used the leftovers from the day before and so the meal was a good mix. In Spanish, para ella means ‘for her.’ Say it quickly and you'll come upon the word paella.

The following story is a variation of the idea that paella is a corruption of para ella. The Queen of Spain came to visit a Valencian village and the villagers wanted to offer her a special meal. That was a paella. For her.

Another old story is told about the courtiers of the Moorish kings, who prepared rice dishes with the leftovers of the royal banquets. In this version, paella derives from the Arabic word for leftovers, baqiyah. By the way, it seems that in the early Middle Ages paella was already well known to the French and Spanish royal families. Even the ancient Romans enjoyed an early form of paella. All’s well that ends well. Paella is and will always be paella and you would be far better off simply enjoying all of its delicious variations.

Recipe for Paella Valenciana (3 to 4 persons)

  1. Put pieces of chicken and rabbit (with bone: 1 drumstick in about three pieces) with some olive oil in a well-heated paella pan and sear until browned. Simmer on low heat until cooked.
  2. Add 4 to 5 ripe, peeled and diced tomatoes (tomato frito). Voeg een eetlepel milde paprikapoeder toe. Add one tablespoon of mild paprika.
  3. Move everything to the side of the pan and in the middle fry beans and slices of red pepper.
  4. Add (preferably homemade) chicken stock, at least two fingers high. Bring to the boil and add La Bomba paella rice. Risotto Rice is also allowed.
  5. Turn down the heat and add saffron, white beans (garrafo) and salt to taste. Simmer until almost all the liquid is gone, but no longer than 15 min. Now switch off the heat, cover the pan with a newspaper, and let the dish stand for 5 to 8 minutes until any final moisture is absorbed by the rice. Serve with slices of lemon and aioli.

Tip: Before turning off the heat, pour some olive oil over the paella in a circular motion, working from the outside of the pan into the center. Turn up the heat to its highest setting, never longer than 45 sec. Keep sniffing the steam during this process and at the first whiff of scorching, turn off the heat at once. Now the bottom of the paella will be perfect: a little scorched. As the Valencians say: socarrat. This is the finishing touch for a delicious paella.

socarrat. This is the finishing touch for a delicious paella